(KPIX 5) — As KPIX ConsumerWatch Reporter Julie Watts was first to report on her blog, a high-end child car seat that is marketed as the only car seat without hazardous flame retardants has been found to contain them after all.
The Orbit Baby car seat has been a must-have for health-conscience moms. However, the car seat-stroller system can cost up to twice as much as others because of its specialized materials.
“The appeal of the Orbit, aside from being an all-in-one travel system, is they marketed themselves as the first car seat company that told you there were no bad flame retardants in the foam, and we convinced people that was worth paying more for,” said Suzanne Price, founder of children’s boutique Sprout San Francisco
Price said she only stocks items free of known toxic chemicals, something Orbit was known for.
It’s website claimed all fabrics and foams are tested to ensure ‘below detection’ limits of some of the most concerning known chemicals including TCPP, or Chlorinated Tris.
However, that’s exactly what a study by the Ecology Center found in an Orbit Baby G3 earlier this year.
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A KPIX follow-up investigation found a more concerning version of Tris, TDCPP, in Orbit Car Seats.
“The concern is it’s associated with cancer it is very close to a neurotoxin,” said scientist Arlene Blum, founder of the Green Science Policy Institute. “It’s just not a good chemical.”
Blum was instrumental in getting two forms of the chemical removed from children’s pajamas in the 70’s. One form of Tris is now listed as a carcinogen known to cause cancer by the state of California.
Blum was upset when KPIX 5 ConsumerWatch Reporter Julie Watts showed her that Orbit’s website implied that her non-profit association endorsed their products.
Her reaction when Watts told her another form of Tris has now been detected in their car seats?
“I was surprised, but not that surprised because there is no transparency,” said Blum. “People who make products can’t even find out what is in their products … I mean I think Orbit means well, but they just don’t know what’s in their products.
Orbit declined an interview, but in a statement says:
“Orbit Baby requires our suppliers to follow a standard that prohibits halogenated flame retardants.” Orbit also said it does its own testing at independent, accredited laboratories.
But when Watts asked if any of Orbit’s own testing found any of the concerning chemicals in question, the company had no comment. You can read Orbit’s full response here.
However, the Ecology Center wasn’t the first third party to notify Orbit of Tris in its car seats. A year earlier customers told Price that their Orbits tested positive for Tris. She notified the company and had one of her Orbits tested along with another car seat she carries. The Orbit tested positive.
“We immediately pulled it off all our floors,” said Price.
To its credit, Orbit bought back some of her stock. However, a year later Orbit’s website still claimed the products did not contain Tris.
Ecology Center researchers told Watts that they reached out to Orbit, both before and after their report release in June, but Orbit did not respond.
However, Orbit does follow many of the best practices recommended by the Ecology Center and Orbit was not the only car seat found to contain Tris and concerning flame retardants.
The Ecology Center tested 15 different car seats for its study and found concerning flame retardants in 75% of the car seats tested. Orbit was believed to be the only company found with concerning chemicals that claimed it did not contain them.
Researchers say the larger issue is that companies don’t disclose which retardants they use to comply with current law.
Many argue that regulators need to revise federal law to eliminate flame retardants in car seats all together. As Blum said, “By the time the fire reaches the cab where the children are, having flame retardants under the child isn’t going to make a difference.”
Blum stresses that parents should limit the time kids spend in any car seats, don’t use your car seat as a stroller seat and never let your baby sleep in a car seat outside of the car.
Orbit says it has refunded customers on a case-by-case basis and has now removed some of the flame retardant claims from its website.
For consumers who are interested in getting their car seat foam tested, Duke University’s Analytical Chemistry Program will test your foam for free.
NOTE: Car seats in cars save lives. None of this information should be interpreted to imply otherwise. The safest place for a child in a moving vehicle is in a rear-facing car seat in the middle of the back seat.
This story has been updated with additional links to our on-going investigation into flame retardants in car seats.